> My backyard contains a large (~150 feet tall!) and seemingly healthy
> Norfolk Pine tree that is growing at an alarming pace. When I bought
> the house 3 years ago, the tree was covered in ivy (it was reaching
> about 50' up the trunk). Thinking this was not healthy for the tree, I
> cut the ivy down. I'm not sure if that accelerated the tree's growth,
> however since then it's branches have grown to cover the entire back
> yard (about 15-20 feet broader), and the tree keeps getting noticably
> taller each year.
The ivy may have restricted the growth a little by not allowing light to any
foliage it covered.
However it was good you did remove it as it would have only killed the
branches it covered.
> I have at least three reasons for wanting to cut back the tree and stop
> its rapid growth:
> (1) Because we are in San Francisco, back yards are not very big. If
> the tree were to fall, it would severly damage either my house or one of
> the neighbors'. I've been told that Norfolk Pine trees have shallow
> root systems, though this tree seems to have been here for 50-100 years.
Can't really help you on whether they do have shallow root systems or not,
but judging by the size and healthiness on the tree, then I assume it would
have a good root system.
Depending on the soil in the area is whether the roots will continue to
support it. If you have shallow soil, on a rocky base then it could be
unsafe. If you have good soil, not rocky, then I guess the roots will surely
anchor the plant safely.
If the tree has survived this long, and in the past 50 to 100yrs you have
had strong winds in the area then it's quite possible it will continue to
stay upright, with no problems
> (2) There is no longer any sun in the back yard.
> (3) Every 4-6 months, the tree "sheds" its "leaves", and covers the back
> yard with 6 inches deep of "droppings" (these aren't really leaves, but
> I don't know what they're called).
> My questions:
> I've heard that if Norfolk Pine trees are pruned incorrectly, they never
> regain their shape, and it can also damage the tree. Is there a
> "right" way to do it? How do I know if a local "tree expert" knows what
> he/she is doing? How dangerous is a 150' Norfolk Pine tree...do they
> have a height above which they fall more frequently? Can I trim the
> lower branches without damaging the tree?
Ask any local tree expert in the area and see if they know about NIP's. I
think they are much the same as pine tress with that typical "christmas tree
Pruning lower branches to give you more "head height", and possibly letting
sun should not hurt the tree. Just cut them off at the trunk. You can cut
them off thwenty feet high up the trunk if you want to let light it. This is
sometimes known as "lifting" them.
If you cut the "tips" out of any of the branches, or even the tip out of the
main trunk, it won't get that shape back. It may however make that branch
thicken up with more foliage though.
> To make matters more complicated, there is no access to my back yard for
> any sort of crane, since the widest access to the back is about 3 feet
> wide. So, any sort of tree maintenance will have to be done manually,
> with someone climbing the tree. Is this even possible???
Any experienced tree specialist will be able to climb the tree and take it
down in "pieces". Unfortunately, it can be a slow process and that means it
could be costly. Any pruning to the top of the tree to reduce height will
mean it will lose its distinct shape.
> If anyone has had experience with a similar-sized tree, please let me
Not sure on your council setup over there in the states, but here in
Australia if you have a tree of that size you want removed (or heavily
pruned I think too), you generally have to get local council permission.
Not only that, but if you have any concerns regarding dangerous branches/or
trees on your property, they will send someone out to determine the safety
of the tree. This involves checking the healthiness of the tree (diseases,
borers, etc), checking the soil structure, checking branch angles, for dead
or damaged wood in it, and so on.
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